Found Art: Kindness Against the Grain

Hi friends!

When I’m not working for The Chronicle newspaper as a photographer, or for the Humanist Connection of Stanford as Community Outreach Manager, or raising a 3-year-old (whew!), I’m working in a residential sober house/HIV AIDS facility as a case manager. Like all social services work, the pay is awful and the results mixed. For each client who achieves sobriety and begins life anew, ten re-use and end up back on the street. It’s absolutely true in this vocation that you have to love people and believe in the essential goodness of our species – or at least our potential to do good given the right circumstances – or you won’t last.

I arrived at work yesterday to find out one of our clients was being evicted. As of today, he’s homeless again. The proper folks over at Admin decided they were fed up with his public racism and violent temper. I’ve clashed with him before over his refusals to peacefully co-habitate with the “blacks” and “blancos” in our facility. He’s been threatening toward me and, due to my soft-spoken and gentle approach with clients (I employ the unconditional positive regard model to care), he decided that I must be gay. Under his breath he often refers to me as the “cabrón,” not knowing I have enough of a grasp on Spanish to understand when he’s discussing me in pejorative terms. But I’ve always maintained my friendly, forgiving disposition with him. It’s hard to be threatening or unkind to someone who unfailingly treats you with dignity.

But my co-workers and the other clients were happy to be rid of him. The mood was jovial when I arrived, with staff and clients talking about “karma” and comeuppance and exhorting me to rejoice that the man who detests me so much is getting his just desserts. Honestly, I’m just sad to see another broken person falling through the cracks.

I remembered something my boss said at a recent staff meeting. A co-worker said that she didn’t understand why this man could be “so manipulative and hateful.” My boss asked in response: “Did you have two parents who loved you? Did you know that you were loved and safe? Because if you did, you had more than this man ever did.”

Late in the evening, he came for his final supervised medication administration. I could tell he’d been worn down by the victorious stares of his peers, the triumphant grins of the staff who were ready to shake him off like dust from their feet.

I shook his hand and told him, “I wish you all the best.”

Free Photo of the Day 7/21/14 & An Epigram

American White Water Lily
Canon T3i: 48mm; 1/320 sec; f/5.6; ISO 200

Hi friends!

Two updates today. The first is your free photo of the day, this one of an American white water lily (nymphaea ordorata). It was taken at the The University of Connecticut’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology plant growth facilities. I spent another day there with River last week and photographed a few of the gymnosperms currently in bloom. I also photographed two “sweet” plants that you might recognize. They’re posted below and the first person to correctly identify them gets, er, bragging rights!

The second update is an epigram I wrote called “Dairy Cow.” It’s a bit reminiscent of the late Ogden Nash. If you know a little bit about climate change and greenhouse gasses, the joke will be apparent. PLEASE NOTE: The poem is not offered for public use and is copyrighted for use in my upcoming book, “Where You Will Find Me.”

Enjoy, and as always please consider helping me with my goal of becoming a nurse. Thanks!

Dairy Cow

She gobbles the grass without knowing,

The gasses she makes are stealing the snowing.

 

Can you identify these plants? Good luck!

 

“L’Etrangère” – Oscar Milosz

Hello friends!

And now for something completely different. As an undergraduate and during my years in seminary (where fluency in two ‘theological’ languages was compulsory) I pursued the language of my familial history, French. Living as I do in a largely Latino/a community, I get to use my French in conversation with about the same frequency as I go on dates. Nevertheless, when I have downtime at work I like to translate French poetry to keep my vocabulary and grammar honed and, well, because I draw quite a bit of inspiration from francophone poets.

Anyway, I spent some time the other day creating my own translation of Oscar Milosz‘s L’étrangère. Oscar was a bit of a religious nut, but his tortured reflections on love and alienation are compelling still them same. I’ve only read John Peck’s interpretation of the work before and, while it’s good, I thought I could offer a slightly different take on it.

I’ve tried to strike a balance between linguistic accuracy and faithfulness to the spirit of the words as I read them. If you speak/read French, I welcome comments on my translational choices below. If you don’t, I hope you enjoy the English translation as it is.

The Stranger (excerpt)

In your eyes I discover the realities of dreams,
Of dreams I dreamed in an ancient time
And visions birthed in the sunlight of life.
All of eternity ends, it may be said,
In this twilight poisoned by the rain.

I recognize ethereal beings in you,
Travelers to a hidden place,
Whom once I met in hazy stations
Where every breeze had inflections of goodbye.
Sometimes, too, you’re the bustle of a market

With all its lights in tears and reeking
Of mildew and vice,
And the sterile joy of its songs.
Memories of houses of game, old cards
Shuffled with the chaos of my exasperation.

If I left, if I closed the door, what would you do?
Maybe it would be like
you’d never laid eyes on me
My steps would die, without echoes, on the street
And I would see only night in your windows.

And that is how you must leave me today
Immediately and forever
Without a word to me of where from you come, where you go.
Rain falls on the great bare gardens and your soul is cold,
November burying the countryside and my life.


Original text:

Je retrouve en tes yeux des réalités de rêves,
De rêves rêvés dans le vieux temps
Et des visions écloses au soleil de la vie.
Dans le demi-jour empoisonné de la pluie
On dirait que toute une éternité s’achève.

Je reconnais en toi des êtres mystérieux,
Des voyageurs au but secret
Rencontrés autrefois dans la brume des gares
Où tous les bruits ont des inflexions d’adieux.
Parfois aussi tu m’es une atmosphère de foire

Avec ses lumières en pleurs et ses relents
De moisissure et de vice,
Avec sa misère et la joie malade de ses musiques.
Des souvenirs de maisons de jeu nostalgiques
Se mêlent au chaos de mon énervement.

Si je sortais, si je fermais la porte, que ferais-tu ?
Ce serait peut-être
Comme si tes yeux ne m’avaient jamais connu.
Le bruit de mes pas mourrait sans écho dans la rue
Et je ne verrais que la nuit à tes fenêtres.

C’est comme si tu devais me quitter aujourd’hui
Tout de suite et pour toujours
Sans songer à me dire d’où tu viens, où tu vas.
Il pleut sur les grands jardins nus, ton âme a froid,
Novembre ensevelit le paysage et ma vie.

Free Photo of the Day 7/13/14

owl-1Hi friends!

River and I went camping this past week down in Voluntown, CT. The Voluntown/Griswold area is home to Connecticut’s largest state forest, Pachaug. We took a ride over to the forest proper on Thursday, and less than 100 feet into the woods I saw a beautiful barred owl (strix varia) take flight into a maple tree. It was unusual to see the nocturnal bird active in the middle of the day, but I grabbed my camera to get a few photos while I could!

The T3i did a decent job of capturing the owl at a significant distance. I had the kit lens zoomed to 250mm and shot at an ISO of 500 (f7.1; 1/400). The resulting image – which is cropped to about 40% of its original size – is not bad at all. I wish I could have stepped down to a larger aperture – but I’d need a better lens for that.

Enjoy this free image, and as always if you use my images please consider helping me climb out of poverty and take River and I to a safer and more secure future – donate to my nursing school campaign here.

Have a great day!

Willimantic Then & Now (Part 2)

Hi friends! After some delay (a combination of work and daddy time) here’s the second set of “Then & Now” photos from Willimantic. An interesting aside – when I went to shoot the former site of the Burger Chef diner, now and for many years preceding the home of Papa’s Pizza and Roast Beef, I observed a man’s scooter catch fire in front of me. He ditched the bike in the Papa’s parking lot and fled. A large crowd gathered to watch the blaze until the Willimantic Fire Department arrived to extinguish it. I snapped about 30 photos of the event and sent them over to The Chronicle for publication. (Once they’ve cleared publication there, I’ll post them here.)

Have a great day!

tc-renewal-ll

The Baptist Church on Main Street adjacent to what was once called Lincoln Square, a broad intersection with a center block. In the 1970s, Willimantic undertook a massive redevelopment project and demolished Lincoln Square and many other historic buildings and blocks.

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The Baptist church today, one of the only buildings still standing in the area. Note the spires of St. Mary’s church to the right and background of the building. The block itself is now a large field and the site of the abandoned and boarded up Jillson Cinemas (where I had my first date!)

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The Willimantic Elks Club (#1311), built in 1925 in Tudor Revival architectural style.

elks fair prizes-a-now

The building today is virtually unchanged. It continues to host the Elks and is rented for weddings and other special occasions.

willi63-39“Mister Donut” in 1963 – it was a thriving business until at least the late 1990s (if my memory is accurate) until it was put out of business by the ubiquitous “Dunkin’ Donuts” Chain.

willi63-39-now

The building remains in 2014, with some changes.

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The “old” Stop & Shop building in 1963. Stop & Shop still has a business in town at the location of an old Bradlees department store.

willi63-38-now

This building also still stands, now the site of the Access Agency social service. An addition was for a Wal-Greens store (right); today it houses the Salvation Army Thrift Shop.